Experts raise health concerns over the use of spray guns
GEORGE TOWN: Cordless rechargeable spray guns for disinfecting surfaces, objects and even people are becoming more and more popular, but experts are concerned with how they are used.
While some stores use them to spray disinfectants on objects to prevent Covid-19 infection, many train it on their visitors, customers and even themselves.
However, Universiti Sains Malaysia virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said that while the haze or dry fog emitted by these weapons was good for covering large areas, it was a bad idea to aim it at people.
â€œIf not used correctly, the chemicals in the spray can be potentially dangerous. What is generally sold are virucidal disinfectants, such as 0.05% sodium hypochlorite or a liquid containing at least 70% ethanol. Even soap or detergent will suffice.
â€œBut some sprays contain chlorine dioxide, which is mainly used as bleach. Bleaches are great at killing viruses, but we shouldn’t spray them on people.
â€œSpraying any type of chemical on people can cause irritation or injury to the skin, eyes or respiratory tract. Devices that aerosolize chemicals suspend them in the air and they can stay in the air for a long time, especially if the area is not well ventilated, â€she added.
Dr Kumitaa said some of these chemicals could also damage certain surfaces, such as wood or steel.
â€œWhile most of these devices come with the recommended chemical, the concern is that it may be replaced with a cheaper option, especially bleach.
“If it is not prepared in the right dilution, it can potentially damage surfaces, clothing and cause skin irritation,” she added.
Dr Kumitaa said a more suitable scenario for using these devices would be when there are confirmed cases of Covid-19 or in areas that are difficult to disinfect by hand.
She cautioned consumers to use these spray guns only with approved disinfectants and according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and when rooms are unoccupied and properly ventilated.
â€œDefinitely use with extreme caution around foodstuffs or where there are people,â€ she said, adding that regular sanitizers and disinfectants would work just as well.
â€œSurfaces that are touched frequently such as doorknobs, elevator knobs, tables and chairs only need to be wiped down with regular disinfectant,â€ she said.
Penang health committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin said since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic there have been repeated warnings against spraying people with disinfectants.
“Disinfectants contain chemicals and if the mist is inhaled it can cause breathing problems,” she warned.
Malaysian Shopping Malls Association adviser Richard Chan said that while some of their premises will use mist disinfectants on surfaces, they are not being trained for visitors. He said it would be concerning if someone sprayed people with chemicals that could be harmful.
The president of the Penang Consumers Association, Mohideen Abdul Kader, urged the health ministry to combat the use of disinfectant spray guns and similar gadgets and to issue public notices.
â€œInhaling the aerosol may be harmful to the respiratory system or the liquid may come in contact with the eyes and mouth. Is it safe to spray on a surface intended for food preparation? ” he said.